Last September, a new law requiring the “pastuerization” of all almonds quietly went into effect after a USDA’s proposal was announced (or rather, whispered) earlier in 2007. News of this proposal was kept quiet until just before the law went into effect.
The pasteurization process of almonds is primarily by radiation treatment. Radiation destroys vitamins, minerals, adn essential fatty acids in foods – this has been documented by the FDA, according to Food and Water Watch’s Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter. Because radiation of foods is highly unpopular with the public, you will find these items labeled as “pasteurized” if they are labeled at all.
Another acceptable treatment of almonds is through the use of propylene oxide, deemed a “potential human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This substance is banned in Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. Propylene Oxide was once used as racing fuel, but was banned by the US National Hot Rod Association for safety reasons. This product is not GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) and has no business being sprayed on our nuts.
The industry will tell you that radiation is necessary to prevent food borne contamination like salmonella from inhabiting our food supply. Did anyone here know almonds were a potential threat? No, neither did I. And according to the Organic Consumers Association, there have been only two food contamination incidents with raw almonds since 2001 – both caused by improper management of large-scale farms. Could the quiet, uneventful approval of almond irradiation be the door that allows irradiation of more commonly contaminated foods to enter our food supply?
It is important to note that any almond you purchase labeled as “raw” is in fact, no longer raw. Pasteurization kills enzymes – just try sprouting any “raw” almond you find in the stores now.
In light of this news, it isn’t too late to possibly reverse the decision. Since this decision went into effect, the Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns, has stepped down. He has been temporarily replaced by Chuck Conner. With another leader at the helm, a new opportunity for reversal exists.
If you are even the slightest bit outraged, disgusted, or concerned about irradiation spreading to other crops such as spinach and other greens (yes – this proposal has already been made) I highly encourage you to click on this link to the Organic Consumers Movement to send a quick email to Chuck Connor asking him to consider re-opening discussion on the almond issue. Our nuts (and other crops) are in his hands.